On March 27, we celebrated 20 years of HOPE. In January 1994, with the leadership of then-President Jack McAboy, Oakland Rotary embarked on a program that would positively affect the lives of many. Because of the significant challenges faced by inner-city youth, the HOPE program was formed. HOPE stands for Help Oakland Pupils Excel. Pete Mesa was Superintendent of Schools and enthusiastically endorsed the program. Here’s how it worked:
We selected five middle-of-the-road students at Lowell Middle School in Oakland and entered into a four-way contract with them. The four parties include: the student, their caregiver, the school, and their mentor. Each has an important role. If the student maintains a 2.5 GPA, 90 percent attendance and remains crime and drug free through high school, Oakland Rotary provides up to $10,000 toward post-secondary education of their choice.
What were their odds without HOPE? OUSD has a 37 percent drop out rate and that includes the hill schools. Imagine what it is in the flatlands. None of the students we select have a history of academic success in their families. Seventy percent of the students at Lowell Middle School did not live with either one of their biological parents at the time we started the program. They were faced with violence, drugs, and prostitution virtually every day in their neighborhoods. It’s tough to come out of that environment and succeed.
Our club stepped up to the plate to help these kids and raised $300,000 to fund the program. Since its inception, we’ve mentored approximately 92 students and are still in contact with four of the first five. Most have graduated from high school, although may not have finished the program for various reasons. Today, we have 36 in the program. We know that 30 students completed the program and attended either trade school or college. We have two with Master’s degrees and one with a law degree from Hastings and one who’s applying for a Ph.D. We have three students in high school and another three in the 7th grade that are just starting their journey.
I feel particularly honored because I was one of the first group of mentors and my student, Rachel Richardson, attend the meeting on March 27th. Rachel graduated from McClymonds High School and UC Berkeley and has worked at the Haas School of Business for almost ten years and has had two promotions. I am, and have always been, extremely proud of Rachel, who is also a Paul Harris Fellow.
William Reliford graduated in 2008 from SF State with a degree in Rec & Leisure Services. He has also received his Master’s and is about to apply for a Ph.D. William currently works for Oakland Parks & Rec Dept. His mentors were Melody Fuller and Dave Lewis.
Donte graduated from McClymonds High in 2013 and is currently a Freshman at Berkeley City College. His mentor is Mike Melone.
Let me tell you about the other 33 students who are currently in the program.
Kenya Alfred – graduated in 2004 from Prairie A & M College. She earned a Master’s degree in Psychology in 2010. Her mentor is Jean Lyford, with the Orinda Rotary Club. Presently Kenya is working for the Alameda County Welfare Dept. Safeway Program for Abused Children. In her words: “Thanks to the HOPE program and my mentor Jean Lyford, I was the first in my family to graduate from high school. I then graduated from college and went on to get a Masters's degree. Both my younger sister and brother followed me and graduated from college as well, so HOPE affected my whole family. Thank you to Oakland Rotary. Kenya was in our first class in January 1994, along with Rachel Richardson.
Columbus Lewis – Graduated from Pharmacy Tech School in 2005. Worked for Rite Aid in Sacramento and is presently managing property in Oakland. His mentor was Dwight Dunn.
Javier Banuelos – Graduated from Vallejo High in 1999. He has served three tours of duty in Iraq. His mentor was Eddie Snow.
Teddy Saelee – Graduated from Oakland High in 2002. He attended Laney College. He’s working at Oakland Parks & Rec Dept. His mentor was Bob Miller.
Katrice Davis – Graduated from McClymonds in 2002. Today she’s a legal secretary with an Oakland law firm. Her mentor was Shaun Leimbach.
Konisha Hammons – Graduated from Oakland High School in 2002 and attended Sacramento State. Her mentor was Debbie DeDeminico.
Quiana Cash – Graduated from Howard University in Washington, DC in 2006, Magna cum laude. She graduated from Hastings Law School in 2010, summa cum laude. Her mentor was Jack McAboy.
Monroe Shed – Graduated from Campbell University in 2007. He earned his MBA from Fayetteville State University in 2009. His mentor was Joel Rosenberg.
Vanessa Cardenas – Graduated from Fremont High in 2000 and graduated from Cal State East Bay in 2009. Her mentor was Marianne Robison.
Stephen Giles – Graduated from SF State in 2007, majoring in Mass Communications. His mentor was Greg Keller.
Jerome Goode – Graduated from Oakland High in 1997 He attended Merrit College and Westly College. Jerome currently works at Oakland High as an Assistant Coach. His mentor was John Tallarida.
Michelle Marshall – Graduated from Oakland High in 2002. She went to Bryman School and became a Medical Technician. Her mentor was Marion Sylvestre-Wilson.
Rhonda Shields – Graduated from McClymonds High in 2003. She also went to Bryman School and became a Medical Technician. Her mentor was Debra Bell.
Linda Chandarsame – Graduated from Fremont High in 2005. Graduated from UC Davis in 2010. Her mentor was Gudrun Dybdal.
Lynn Yasol – Graduated from Cal State East Bay. Her mentor was Dolores Nielsen.
Camil Clemmons – Graduated from Cal State Los Angeles and was anticipating going to Medical School. Her mentor was Marion Sims.
Nigel Hicks – Graduated from McClymonds High in 2002. Graduated from St. Mary’s College in 2008. His mentor was Dana Sack.
Be-Naiah Williams – Graduated from McClymonds High in 2002 and attended St. Mary’s college. His mentor was Robert Kidd.
Dejour Bell Tyler – Graduated from Rudsdale Continuation in 2007. Attended Western Career College. His mentor was David Rabb.
Tianna Pittman – Graduated from McClymonds High in 2008 and last we heard was a senior at South Texas College. Her mentor was April Rizzi.
Donte Gholeston – Graduated from Oakland Tech in in 2009 and is currently going to Cal State East Bay. His mentor is Joe Goralka.
Erika Cotton – Graduated from Antioch High in 2010 . She went to Laney College and is attending Carrington College majoring in Massage Therapy. Her mentor is Judge Trina Thompson.
Marquetta Stokes – Graduated from Oakland Tech in 2010. Received her AA from Pasadena City College and is attending Southern University in New Orleans, LA. Her mentor is Marion Sims.
Saline McCullough – Graduated from Dewey High in 2010. She currently attending Berkeley City College. Her mentors are Gudrun Dybdal and Marion Sims.
Devante Brooks – Graduated from Oakland Tech in 2011 and is going to Cal State East Bay. His mentor is Alex Greenwood.
Diana Garcia – Graduated from San Lorenzo High in 2012 and is currently attending Chabot Jr. College. Her mentor is Catherine Coleman.
Zacharish Cooper – Graduated from Oakland High in 2012 and is currently attending Diablo Valley College. His mentor is Sheri Atanda.
Our three high school students are:
Evelio Banegas is currently a junior at Oakland High. His mentor is David Rabb.
Sadiah Brown is currently attending Mid-West High School and is in the 9th grade. Her mentor is Sheri Atanda.
Jerrikka Mitchell is a senior at Kennedy High. Her mentor is Janet Ferraro.
Our three new 7th graders and their mentors:
Orande Ferguson is attending Roosevelt Middle School, and his mentor is Rod Hughes.
Jah-Neese Martin is attending Bret Harte Middle School, and her mentor is Stephanie Casenza.
Marquise Evans is attending Westlake Middle School, and his mentor is Gary Flaxman.
We’d also like to acknowledge Mrs. Meeks from Roosevelt Middle School and Donte Rogers, Educational Director with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Oakland Ossian E. Carr Unit, as well as all the caregivers. A huge thank you to Marion Sims. He maintains all the grades, relationships, paperwork, communications, school relations, events, training, and much more. An equally huge thank you to Jack McAboy for his continued leadership and commitment to the HOPE program.
How can YOU help support this program? There are two ways to do this: become a mentor and get involved and make a difference in someone’s life. Or, give to the HOPE program with your ORE donation at Rotary. This will help us perpetuate our ability to serve students into the future.Thank you.
Iris Brody Lopez